Words: Sharmeen Hussain
Photographs: Aparna Nori
GO FROM: Mysore, Vellore, Chennai
GO FOR: Exploring Bangalore from a different perspective
It’s 7am in the morning and Vijay Raghavan Thimvady is waxing eloquent about a New Caledonian pine. He’s conducting the Green Heritage Walk, organised by city tour company BangaloreWALKS, inside the sprawling Lalbagh Botanical Garden, one of many walks gaining popularity throughout Bangalore as a way to explore and gain a new perspective on the city. This particular one has Vijay in raptures. Beginning at the foot of the Big Rock, a three-billion-year-old hill in the heart of the park, the walk takes you through Lalbagh to explore some of its 1,854 species of plants. Along the way, Vijay shares anecdotes about the park and its flora, but also imparts nuggets of information about the city of Bangalore – like how the leaves of the talipot palm, used as paper, shaped the scripts of India’s curvilinear languages Or, how the soft yellow flowers of the ylang ylang plant are a key ingredient in the iconic Chanel No 5. The three-hour walk culminates with a hearty breakfast at another Bangalore staple, MTR, where you’re served fresh grape juice, piping-hot rava idlis, plain and masala dosas, dessert, and filter coffee in a silver tumbler for all your effort.
If the talk of food has piqued your interest, Bangalore’s got something for that, too. Scarf down plates of flavoursome biryani, goat head curry and fried fish as you make your way from ‘hotel’ to ‘hotel’ on the Military Hotel Food Walk by another city walk company Unhurried. Your guide Vidya Lakshmi, a self-proclaimed foodie and culinary blogger, will help you explore the peculiarly Bangalorean institution of the ‘military hotel’ – small eateries of the no-frills variety that serve simple non-veg food made by the owners themselves with hand-pounded masalas. ‘Military hotels’, as they’re called locally, have an interesting history and get their name from their proximity to the city’s cantonment areas. Each has a distinct style and flavour, depending on whether the owner belongs to the Chettiar, Gowda or Naidu community. The three-hour walk covers hotels from all three communities plus a dessert spot to break the monotony, with Vidya throwing in meaty bits of trivia about each restaurant, its origins and even a recipe or two. Wear loose pants.
History getting you excited now? Tracing the lineage of Bangalore’s old homes, the Houses of Malgudi Walks: Parts 1 & 2 are a journey into the past. Offered by Bengaluru by Foot, the walk gets its name from the areas it covers; ‘Mal’ from the Malleswaram area, and ‘Gudi’ from Basavanagudi. Both areas have a handful of intact 19th- century houses, still inhabited by old families that have proudly preserved their ancestral heritage. Stepping across the thresholds bring on waves of nostalgia, the interiors evoke memories of childhoods spent in large homes with flaking lime-powdered walls and high ceilings. Peek into these restored houses and stroll down the grid-like lanes of Malleswaram and Basavanagudi with your architect guide Mansoor Ali, who revels in pointing out the architectural details of the 100-year-old houses, with their Tudor, Baroque, Art Deco and Chettinad influences. Depending on which part you sign up for, your walk will either begin with a satisfying breakfast at the famous CTR, or end with a home-cooked lunch in a 100-year-old home, the perfect way to wrap things up.